Gray Area Group Hosted by AUK’s Center for Gulf Studies
The American University of Kuwait’s Center for Gulf Studies hosted the civil activist group Gray Area for a multi-panel discussion entitled, Half-Kuwaiti (When It Doesn’t Count). The talk was open to the public and was attended by more than 150 members of the AUK community and guests.
Gray Area is a local initiative aiming to raise awareness on the state of simultaneous inclusion and exclusion experienced by people born of a Kuwaiti mother and non-Kuwaiti father who are not granted the Kuwaiti citizenship. According to Gray Area, “The sporadic implementation, contradiction, and lack of clarity of the laws and legislations concerning children of Kuwaiti mothers often leaves them in a gray area when it comes to their identities. Legally, children of Kuwaiti mothers are not considered Kuwaiti. However, their social and emotional ties often tell a more complex story.”
The evening began with a one-minute video created by Gray Area that immersed the audience into the life and daily challenges of a young man born of a Kuwaiti mother and non-Kuwaiti father. The video reminded the audience that the young man’s story represented multiple lives and realities for many people in Kuwait who are in similar circumstances.
At the end of the video, the first panel took the stage, comprised of four members of the larger Gray Area community and the event moderator, Abdullah Al-Khonaini. Throughout the first half of the event, Al-Khonaini asked the four community members about the various obstacles they face while living in Kuwait, including questions on how they identified the obstacles they face in their day-to-day lives, as well as their successes and accomplishments. The community members recalled that navigating residency presents a major issue, as children of Kuwaiti mothers are not granted permanent residency and must renew their temporary residencies every five years. The community members also touched on their lack of ability to inherit their mothers’ properties, and how this, among many other factors, has caused a general sense of insecurity about the future. They noted that current legislations are causing families to separate, leading some to resort to emigrating to other countries in order to secure a better future. Despite these issues, panelists were personally accomplished, completing higher levels of education, obtaining careers they worked hard to excel at, and have even received local, global, and regional invitations to share their skills, knowledge, and work outside of Kuwait. The panelists noted that their personal successes were a result of tenacious proactivity, and that not all members of the community were able to obtain the opportunities for higher education, employment, or travel.
The second panel was comprised of the Gray Area team, who spoke about their own experiences in establishing the group, as well as their mission to raise awareness for the rights of children of Kuwaiti mothers. The Gray Area team also presented findings from a public survey they had recently conducted on how children of Kuwaiti mothers are perceived. Among the most important findings was that over 90% of those surveyed support the idea that children of Kuwaiti mothers should be able to inherit their mothers’ properties and obtain permanent residency.
The session was then opened to the audience for questions. The Gray Area team discussed the difficulties they face in finding reliable statistics regarding their cause and reflected on the general lack of formal state-level data on this issue. Members of the audience also shared their stories with the community members and asked what the future holds for the Gray Area campaign.
CGS Director Dr. Al-Adwani stated, “It is important to the mission of the Center for Gulf Studies to ensure our local civic activist groups have a forum within which they may present their messages and engage with the community for larger discussion. The large turnout of tonight’s session indicates that our communities want to listen, want to learn more, and want to interact.”
“We believe in the power of raising awareness as the first step towards legal change. There is still so much to be done when it comes to educating ourselves and the general public about the rights of children of Kuwaiti mothers as well as understanding the implications the current laws have on our society as a whole,” said a spokesperson for Gray Area. “We want to thank our community for their support and trust over this past year. We also want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that this is a campaign for all of us—Kuwaiti, half-Kuwaiti, men, women, and everything in the gray area in between—and that social and legal change can only happen when we all come together.”
For more information on Gray Area and to learn more about their campaign, you can follow them on Instagram or Twitter @grayarea_kw
Gray Area panel members
General photo of the talk